I always feared this would happen, and it’s taken about a decade-and-a-half to happen, but it’s happening. Memories of my grandpa are vanishing. October has been such a difficult month for me. When he died in October 1998, I felt like my entire world had been flipped upside down and inside out. No landscape looked familiar anymore. My entire attitude shifted from happy-go-lucky to dark, cynical. I was only eleven-years-old, but suddenly, everything changed inside of me.
My mother gave me a notebook I had used as a diary during this time period, and it went from entries like, “Today, I bought pizza and a cupcake for lunch.” to “The feel of Grandpa’s death still lingers in the air since last Friday. I knew he was going to die, but it is still a very tragic loss.” I also wrote entries questioning what love is and wondering about my future. It took me from a carefree, bright-eyed young girl to one who discovered loss and tragedy exist in the world. I remember shortly thereafter, my best friend stopped speaking to me.
Unfortunately, a lot of the memories jumble together, so I don’t have a clear timeline. The events don’t matter so much as the loss of my grandpa. I can’t remember his voice 100%. I think I can hear it at times. The distinct raspy quality. The Winstons he used to smoke. I had a dream a year ago or so about him and my grandma. We were having a big party in their basement, and everyone was there. I remember in the dream, my grandpa looked like he did in real life (not like he does in most of the photos I have). He was wearing a newsboy hat, a light blue cardigan, a short-sleeve button-down white shirt with cigarettes in the breast pocket, and gray dress pants. In the dream, my grandma was making a big meal, and everyone was talking and laughing. I sat on my grandpa’s lap, and when he leaned in to tell me he loved me, he called me princess like old times. It all felt so familiar, the warmth of the basement, the dusty plastic trees in the corner lit up with twinkle lights, the smells of fried meat and homemade salad, family laughing and calling out to one another.
It felt real, but unfortunately, I awoke from the dream, feeling cheated. It ended too soon. I woke up too quickly. I didn’t get a chance to enjoy it as long as I would have liked. The dream, as all dreams do, faded with time, but I still cling to it because it is almost as though I had another chance to formulate those old memories. The memories too are fading. I forget some of the things he said. Sometimes, when I listen to my uncle, I hear hints of my grandpa. Sometimes, when I listen to my mom, she reminds me of my grandmother. But the loss is real. And though over a decade-and-a-half has passed, and the memories are fading, I still remember.
I remember his jokes. The bark of his laughter when he threatened to cut off my dog’s tail. The way he teased us, threatening to steal the money out of our birthday cards. His joking wasn’t how most people treated children, but I loved that I was never seen as a child. I was his granddaughter, his princess, but I was treated with respect and honesty. When he and I sat outside in the sunroom, he would smoke and tell me stories, but he never held back. He cursed in front of me, but he loved me with a ferociousness I still miss.
I miss sitting beside him, squeezing his hand, watching jaguars in the jungle on a PBS documentary. I miss him trying to teach me how to wink. I miss his voice. His laugh. I miss the man whose voice I barely remember.
I miss my grandpa.